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Facebook phobia

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Sharon Steel's got it, in this week's Phoenix:

Since it was created in 2004 by Harvard drop-out Zuckerberg, Facebook has played second-fiddle to MySpace, its elder by five years. This past May, that changed: Facebook drew 125 million unique visitors, versus MySpace’s 115 million. In 2007, it grew by 162 percent, compared with MySpace’s paltry 5 percent. Everyone from your emo little sister to your straight-laced boss has crafted profiles and mass-added hundreds of friends on the site, even if they never had joined a social-networking site before.

So it’s safe to say that Facebook is now an omniscient, all-powerful tool that, in some way, traffics in dirt on nearly everyone you know. Which is part of its appeal — that is, until you’re the one trying to stop some unwelcome personal facts from getting out. No matter how closely you guard your information or meticulously you edit your profile, after all, there’s no accounting for what someone chooses to extract from his or her read-between-the-lines snap-judgment social-networking fervor.

It’s the worst things about high school, neatly packaged and conveniently accessible: you’re worried about who’s more popular than you. You’re obsessed with projecting the right image. You’re judged on a completely superficial basis. You want to make sure you have the right “signifiers”: the right band poster in your locker, the right movie you just saw, the right book sticking out of your bag. Someone’s always waving down at you from their perch on the social food chain. (And the figures are right there for you to see, indisputable empirical evidence that someone is more popular than you.) You feel misunderstood, because no one knows the real you. Which is why hinting at who you are vis-à-vis the things that you like becomes that much more imperative.

Call it an exercise in post-post-modern paranoia, but Facebook and its fellow site MySpace are actively pushing a form of superficial cliquism into adulthood.

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